ŠKODA Chief Designer Oliver Stefani emphasizes: “We want to reach and appeal to more people with our new design language, which is smoother, more dynamic and, above all, more emotional. Our goal is for customers to choose a ŠKODA not only because it is practical, offers lots of space and an exceptional price-performance ratio; they should also love the design and have a special emotional relationship to their vehicle.”
Inspiration from Czech culture and traditions
ŠKODA is one of the longest-established car manufacturers in the world and can look back on a long history. The brand’s headquarters are in Mladá Boleslav and the company is at home in Prague in the heart of Europe. It draws inspiration from Czech culture with its impressive architecture and the famous Bohemian craftsmanship of crystal manufacturing.
With sharp, precise lines and dynamic shapes inspired by crystal glass, the first evolutionary step of ŠKODA’s design language was completed in 2015 when the third generation ŠKODA SUPERB was introduced. In 1996, with the introduction of the ŠKODA OCTAVIA, it had made the slogan “Simply Clever” the brand’s recipe for success. Now the next stage of development is underway – for both the interior and exterior. “Simply Surprising” combines the familiar easy-to-use and ergonomically optimized functions with crystalline design and increased emotionality without being overbearing – true to the motto “Smart Understatement”.
New exterior highlights
Karl Neuhold, Head of Exterior Design at ŠKODA, explains: “The new design language evokes emotions and exudes more dynamism and sportiness. A ŠKODA now also awakens desire with its appearance, and thanks to the perfect proportions of a long vehicle cabin, our brand-typical generous space – for which every ŠKODA is known – is preserved.”
With the new design language, it is the design of the radiator grille that immediately catches the eye. In its distinctive hexagonal shape, it stands upright and creates an authentic appearance. A characteristic tornado line, which runs along the side, visually elongating the vehicle, highlights the vehicle’s sportiness and dynamism. Smooth surfaces awaken emotions; crystalline elements can be found on the flat headlights with clear glass surfaces and the razor-sharp L-shaped taillights. A new, self-confident symbol of ŠKODA’s design evolution is the ŠKODA lettering in block capitals in the middle of the tailgate; the generous interior space is preserved.
Interior concept with central high display
Norbert Weber, Head of Interior and Color & Trim Design ŠKODA, explains: “The interiors of our VISION X and VISION RS concept studies are a realistic demonstration of the future of ŠKODA’s new interior design language with new colours and materials that underline ŠKODA’s new interior design spirit. The democratic interior concept, which celebrates its premiere in the ŠKODA SCALA, marks the starting point for the brand’s new emotional and functional identity.”
The new interior concept, which is making its series-production debut in the SCALA, is not only characterised by the well-balanced use of space throughout the vehicle, but above all by a redesigned instrument panel. This is symmetrical and invokes the line of radiator grille and bonnet with the central power dome and the ŠKODA logo. The freestanding infotainment system display is positioned centrally and high in the driver’s field of vision. A character line is also formed underneath the screen by an ergonomic ledge for the hand operating the touchscreen.
Fine materials and unique surface grain
Andrea Jensen, Coordinator of the Colour & Trim team at ŠKODA, explains: “We strive for the mutual harmony of materials and colours in the interior and exterior, and we search for the best possible result. The design aims to arouse emotions and, at the same time, match ŠKODA’s DNA – take, fore example, our new surface graining on the instrument panel and door panels.”
The new interior concept features warm and pleasant colours as well as high quality materials. In addition to the seat covers made of fine Suedia microfibre with seams in a contrasting colour, this also includes the soft surfaces of the dashboard and the door panels. They have a new, special grain modelled on crystalline structures that will characterise the ŠKODA brand’s style in the future.
ŠKODA design studios in Mladá Boleslav, Prague and Shanghai
The home of ŠKODA Design is a villa built in 1890 on the Jizera River in the Česana area of Mladá Boleslav. It is now part of the modern ŠKODA AUTO Technology Centre, which was relocated to Česana in 2008 and further expanded in 2015. This is where futuristic technology and tradition are combined in an idyllic environment, creating a very special, creativity-enhancing work atmosphere. The villa was once the home of textile entrepreneur Franz Hiller. Textile factories were initially built on the site in the 19th century, and parts of ŠKODA vehicles were produced there for the first time in the mid-20th century.
A second location of the design department is located in the heart of the Czech capital, Prague, not far from Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the dancing house and Žofín Palace. The first designs for future ŠKODA models are also created in the inspiring environment and atmosphere of the Prague Art-nouveau building on Masarykovo nábřeží. Also in China, the brand’s most important single market, there is a branch of ŠKODA Design; the office in Shanghai is headed by Miroslav Jaskmanicky.
Oliver Stefani’s design team is very international, comprising more than 150 employees from 28 nations. This provides influences and ideas from the most diverse cultures in the world.
Interview with Oliver Stefani, Chief Designer at ŠKODA AUTO
Mr Stefani, you talk about evolution rather than revolution in view of the next stage in ŠKODA’s design language. Why?
Oliver Stefani: “In recent years, ŠKODA has already made very positive developments in the field of design, justifiably focusing on continuity. Changing direction at each or every other model change is not what the brand stands for. Rather, ŠKODA remains true to its line, creating increasing awareness and reliability. At first, smooth, clean shapes emphasized the benefits of ‘Simply Clever’ and created the brand’s essence. The second step involved deliberately placed contours and crystalline elements creating new accents and a sense of autonomy. To reinforce these further, we only had to make minor adjustments to make our design even more striking and modern.”
What features characterize the new style?
Stefani: “We gave a clear outlook with the ŠKODA VISION RS in Paris. The exterior lines become sportier, even more dynamic and succinct. Powerfully formed surfaces with flowing lines enhance the dynamic appearance. New LED technology extends our flexibility in designing the headlights and rear lights, where we are able to stage crystalline elements even more strikingly in keeping with ŠKODA’s tradition. In the interior, we reflect the symmetrical structures of the exterior and create a new fixed point with the floating, high-positioned central display. The exterior symbol of the new design language is the ŠKODA lettering in block capitals at the rear of the vehicles.”
What is the decisive aspect for you in ŠKODA’s new design language?
Stefani: “Function and emotions. Because with emotions you can inspire people for something and generally reach more people. Design is often the most important reason why we choose to buy a particular car or not.”
How do you arouse such emotions?
Stefani: “First with an exterior that arouses desire. Distinctive details such as the grille and arrow-shaped headlights, flowing lines and balanced proportions ensure that a vehicle stands out and – as with the new ŠKODA SCALA – radiates dynamism. We have also transferred this first visual impression to the interior with the new interior concept. The instrument panel reflects the exterior lines, highlighting the feeling of spaciousness typical of ŠKODA. The central display positioned high and in the driver’s field of vision creates a pleasant symmetry. At the same time, the touch screen with its elegant glass front and free-floating arrangement creates a very high-quality and modern look.”
What other important aspects of the interior design are there?
Stefani: “In addition to the appearance, it comes down to the materials used and their processing. This includes the high quality upholstery, for example, made of the microfibre Suedia or leather, which is further enhanced with contrasting stitching, and the soft foam surfaces of the instrument panel and door panels. We have now finished these with a special grain, which is based on crystalline structures. This distinctive surface will also characterize the interior of ŠKODA vehicles in the future.”
How do you come up with new ideas in the design process?
Stefani: “Our design team comprises more than 150 employees from 28 nations, and that alone guarantees a pool of ideas, some of which are from very different cultures. My job is to allow these people to dream and give their ideas the space they need to grow. We draw our inspiration from the dynamic cooperation of many personalities, a pleasant working atmosphere in our design studios in Mladá Boleslav, Prague and Shanghai, and not least from the ŠKODA brand’s long, unique tradition and Czech culture. Bohemian crystal art, for example, offers so many more possibilities that we can implement in the future.”
What makes a good designer?
Stefani: “Curiosity about all aspects of life and a good gut feeling. Anything you find interesting can serve as inspiration. For me, it’s mainly planes, but also boats, architecture, fashion and movies. Sometimes, I just watch the people around me in a café. Designers need to recognize trends early and anticipate what will come later. Of course, we do not have a crystal ball, but we have that gut feeling, which is very important. But because design is always subjective, there is never a definite black or white; you have to be persistent enough to convince others of your own feelings. If this triggers a reaction in people – whether positive or negative – then something has been achieved: awareness, attention. Any response is better than a ‘I don’t care’, expressing the feeling of arbitrariness. In everything we do, we aim to arouse emotions rather than being mediocre. When people who see a new design for the first time smile, that makes designers happy, and it’s a nice feeling.”